Next Big Thing: A Review of Prezi Presentation Software

Posted on December 12, 2011

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I first saw Prezi in use in September 2011. I was at the Desiring God National Conference where Michael Oh, a missionary to Japan, had an afternoon keynote address. He was a fantastic speaker, challenging us to get a global perspective on mission from the Lord’s Prayer. What also impressed me about him was his multimedia presentation. During his entire speech, the text of the Lord’s Prayer would zoom in and out of focus, along with pictures, graphics, and videos. It was the exact opposite of the linear movement found in PowerPoint presentations.

Side Note – Be sure to check out Michael Oh’s DG keynote video – both for a great example of Prezi, but also for a great sermon on missions.

I realized that this new presentation software could work perfectly in youth ministry; all I needed to do was experiment with it.

In December 2011, I did a 2 week series called Game Over, which dealt with Heaven, Hell, and what happens at the end of the world (eschatology). Due to the nature of the topics, these lessons needed to be visually appealing, as well as deal with a lot of content and verses, so I decided to give Prezi a try.

Creating a Presentation

First, you need to create a Prezi account. You have the option of creating a standard login or connecting with a Facebook account. I recommend creating a new login. I used my Facebook account at first, but it created some issues when I went to find my account with the Prezi iPad app.

There is a brief tutorial that shows all the basic steps in Prezi. Once you jump into creating your first Prezi, you will find that there are many of the basic tools from other presentation software: text, frames, shapes, arrows, etc. You can also insert pictures, YouTube videos, and any other type of file (50 MB limit).

Prezi browser editing window

Screenshot of the Prezi browser editing window. Top Left are editing controls. Top Center are saving and version controls. Middle Right are zoom/view controls. Bottom Right are presentation controls.

Once you insert all your text, images, graphics, and files, you are then ready to draw a path for the presentation. Prezi presentations follow a user-designated path. Creating a path is very simple: click on the path button and then start clicking away at your objects. In the main view, the path can be seen as a thin blue line connecting all the various objects. At the bottom of the path-generating screen you will see a time line. You can drag and drop the “slides” (clips of the objects) into any order – much the same as the Light Table in Keynote / Slide Sorter View in PowerPoint.

Prezi path picture

This is what the Prezi Path Editor looks like

Showing a Presentation

When you are finally finished with your Prezi, there are several ways to present it. First, you can present it directly from the web browser. There is a button at the bottom-right of the screen that allows you to see the presentation – which I often used while I was creating the presentation to see my progress. You can even make it present full screen – without the browser bar or anything.

You can also download it and play the Prezi offline. I tried this and it seemed to work fine. With the free version of Prezi, you are unable to edit the presentation offline. A final method of presenting the Prezi is with the Prezi Viewer app for iPad. Simply enter your login info, select the Prezi you want to show, and it will download the file for you. I used the Dock Connection to VGA cable to feed the video to the projector and it worked fine.

Prezi iPad presentation screen

Prezi for iPad provides a very clean look. Bottom buttons control the presentation. You can also manually zoom to any part of the Prezi.

A few suggestions for using Prezi in Youth Ministry:

  • Make a separate Prezi for each week. I tried using the same Prezi for 2 weeks, but it proved difficult. After the first week, I was trying to edit the path for the second week, but I kept accidentally clicking on the path for week 1. I eventually deleted the entire path from Week 1 so I could work in a cleaner environment. Next time, I will create a new Prezi for each week of the series.
  • Watch your typing. One flaw with Prezi is that there is no spellchecking on the text edit. If you are completely dependent on spellchecking like me, you will need to be extra careful when you type. There were at least 3 typos in my first week’s Prezi.
  • Be sure to use the arrow keys. When I practiced my presentation at my desk, I used the mouse to click the button to move the presentation along. However, every once in a while it would slip off the button and it would zoom in on a random point, getting me sidetracked from the presentation. If you use a laptop to present, it is easier to use the hardware arrow keys. With the iPad app, use the on screen arrow keys.

Conclusion

Prezi is a remarkable presentation tool. You can make a beautiful, highly visual presentation that will help grab – and keep – the attention of your students. Prezi is a great tool for youth pastors to use in preaching/teaching. While I don’t think I will use Prezi for every single youth group lesson, I can see that Prezi will likely take the bulk of my presentations from Keynote.

Helpful links

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